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Trump’s Immigration Policy deconstructed and a vision of Immigration Justice

February 8, 2018

During the State of the Union address, President Trump addressed some of his administration’s plans for dealing with immigration. However, like all politicians, we should not take what they say to heart, rather, we need to look more closely at the details of any policy.

The details of the new administration’s immigration policy were released on January 25 and can be found in a document entitled, White House Framework on Immigration Reform & Border Security

There are four segments within this policy, including Border Security, DACA Legalization, Protecting the Nuclear Family and Eliminate Lottery and Repurpose Visas. The section on Border Security is the longest and is prefaced with the following statement:

The Department of Homeland Security must have the tools to deter illegal immigration; the ability to remove individuals who illegally enter the United States; and the vital authorities necessary to protect national security.

This statement is then followed by these 9 tools:

  1. $25 billion trust fund for the border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements.
  2. Close crippling personnel deficiencies by appropriating additional funds to hire new DHS personnel, ICE attorneys, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals.
  3. Hiring and pay reforms to ensure the recruitment and retention of critically-needed personnel.
  4. Deter illegal entry by ending dangerous statutorily-imposed catch-and-release and by closing legal loopholes that have eroded our ability to secure the immigration system and protect public safety.
  5. Ensure the detention and removal of criminal aliens, gang members, violent offenders, and aggravated felons.
  6. Ensure the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of country of origin.
  7. Deter visa overstays with efficient removal.
  8. Ensure synthetic drugs (fentanyl) are prevented from entering the country.
  9. Institute immigration court reforms to improve efficiency and prevent fraud and abuse.

Everyone of these tools are designed to not only strengthen border security, they are designed to target undocumented immigrants and to expedite the process of arresting, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. In addition, the language used, particularly in points 5 and 8, emphasizes a very negative image of who immigrants are. This language essentially criminalizes immigrants and is part of the government effort to make undocumented immigrants seem as though they are all violent criminals. 

Many of the other points listed in the White House document on immigration talk about adding more immigration judges, more ICE officers and attorneys. These measures are only designed to further target undocumented immigrants and speed up the process of arresting, detaining and deporting people.

The only point that identifies a dollar amount ($25 billion) has to do with the border wall system and ports of entry. Two things are important to note here. First, there already exists roughly 700 miles of border wall and fencing along the US/Mexican border. Much of the existing wall and fencing was built and expanded during the Clinton administration in the 90s. Secondly, walls and barriers of any kind don’t ultimately work as a deterrent to immigration.

The other three areas – DACA Legalization, Protecting the Nuclear Family and Eliminate Lottery and Repurpose Visas – all are framed in a negative way, further criminalizing immigration and making it almost impossible for people to achieve permanent resident status.

What Would Immigration Justice Look Like?

Immigration Justice can never be achieved unless we acknowledge that immigration justice is intertwined with economic & trade policies, militarism, white supremacy and colonialism. In oder to achieve immigration justice we have to work on dismantling white supremacy, colonialism, militarism and economic/trade policies that are rooted in capitalism.There is the common phrased used by immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, that says, “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

In fact, the very notion of borders is a nation state creation that is ultimately rooted in imperialist expansion. Mexicans would say that a third of the continental US used to be their land and indigenous communities would argue that is was all their land before the European conquest began more than 500 years ago. Thus, the statement, “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” is not some facetious notion, it is rooted in the historical reality of US imperialist expansion.

Immigration justice would acknowledge that people fleeing their home countries often do so out of economic desperation. This economic desperation is connected to the following dynamics; inequality in their country of origin; World Bank and IMF policies that force austerity measures on countries in the global south; capitalist expansion into new markets, which often undermines localized economies;  and trade policies that are by their very design, meant to benefit large corporations, often displacing people because they can no longer make a living off the land they once owned. The North American Free Trade Agreement is a good example, which has displaced millions from Mexico.

Immigration Justice would also require the US to stop providing weapons to countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras that are used to suppress the populations of those countries; stop providing military advisors and training and stop US military intervention. All these forms of militarism contribute to the displacement of people who often end up coming to the US out of fear for their very lives. A great analysis of US militarism in Mexico is explored in Dawn Paley’s marvelous book, Drug War Capitalism.

Immigration Justice also would encompass things like:

  • Ending the policy of targeting, detaining and deporting immigrants just because they are undocumented.
  • Dismantling the massive detention centers in the US, which are part of the large prison industrial complex.
  • The recognition that if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were all detained or deported, that the US economy would collapse.

The Immigration Justice Movement is growing and challenging policy around DACA, TPS (Temporary Protected Status), and the overall unjust and repressive practice of ICE raids and arrests that create tremendous fear in the immigrant community.

The Immigration Justice Movement is primarily being led by the immigrant community and is no longer asking for reform, but demanding long term solutions. As the Movimiento Cosecha says, “Make no mistake, our movement is stronger than ever. We have structures, strategy, strength, support, and spirit of resilience that it’s rooted in the sentiment of our community so that we will win permanent protection, dignity and respect for ALL immigrants!

However, this movement also need allies and collaborators – those of us with privilege. We need to stand in solidarity with immigrants, educate ourselves about this struggle, provide support and mutual aid to the immigration justice movement, take risks, offer sanctuary and work to prevent the violence and harm that the state – through the courts, ICE, border patrol, local police, detention centers – does to immigrants.




What is Amplify GR up to these days?

February 7, 2018

Is has been 4 months since AmplifyGR made the announcement that they canceled all of the previously scheduled meetings with the community on their development plans for the Boston Square and Cottage Grove neighborhoods.

AmplifyGR staff person Willie Patterson, made a video announcement that was posted on October 12. In that message, AmplifyGR acknowledges that the community has raised several concerns about the process AmplifyGR was engaged in, which led to the cancelation of the meetings. Of the three community Forums that AmplifyGR did host, there was significant pushback from the community and those in attendance

However, AmplifyGR is merely adjusting their plans for the re-development of parts of southeast Grand Rapids. In an AmplifyGR blog post from August 22, they state, “Still, those of us on the front lines agree: If going slower is the price of getting this right… of NOT repeating the mistakes of the past… it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Our community is worth it. And our commitment and passion to achieving the above priorities has never been greater.” 

The above statement is a clear indication that AmplifyGR plans to move forward with their development projects, they just want to get more feedback from the community. In fact, it seems as though, based on some of their Facebook posts, that the DeVos-created entity is meeting with people, just in a less public fashion. In other words, AmplifyGR is moving forward with their development plans for southeast Grand Rapids, outside of the public arena, where they have been challenged on their lack of transparency and intent from the very start. AmplifyGR wants to avoid the kind of pushback they have been experiencing, especially when the community has a chance to speak their mind in a public forum and even interrupt the organization’s plans, as we saw during the last public meeting AmplifyGR held in September

I have also looked at the Southtown Corridor Improvement District minutes over the past six months and there is no new evidence that AmplifyGR has been either attending or having input on those meetings. I looked at those minutes, because it was at minutes from January of 2017 that I first learned of the AmplifyGR plans to re-develop parts of southeast Grand Rapids.

In addition, I have looked through the GR Planning Commission documents and meeting minutes and have found no evidence of AmplifyGR activities there.

So, what has the DeVos-created entity, AmplifyGR, been up to is recent months? The last blog post on their website is from August of 2017. However, their Facebook page has been posting information since the announcement of the public meeting cancellations.

AmplifyGR hosted a Coffee with the Cops function, has promoted community turkey give away during the holidays, job fairs and they have posted several announcements about other DeVos Family funded projects, such as Spring GR and the DeVos created entity Start Garden. In fact, Start Garden’s 100 Ideas entrepreneurial project is the now the cover page for AmplifyGR. DeVos money looking out for DeVos money.

Ag Secretary in West MI talks to farmers, says poor people receiving food assistance better not get used to their “lifestyle”

February 6, 2018

Last Thursday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, visited Robinette Orchards in Grand Rapids Township and spoke with farmers and farm lobbyists, according to an article on MLive

Perdue had a particular message to people who received federal food assistance:

“For able-bodied adults without dependents who have taken this program as a lifestyle and are not looking for work, we want to send a message to them,”

Perdue was basically saying to a crowd of people who receive massive federal subsidies through the Farm Bill, that people who benefit from federal food assistance programs that they are screwed.

Such contempt for poor people is not new, since the 2014 Farm Bill cut $8.6 billion for food assistance. However, we can ascertain from the Ag Secretary’s remarks that further cuts to federal food assistance are likely to happen.

The irony of such comments from Perdue, especially considering the US Farm Bill is a nothing short of massive corporate welfare for agri-business (large farmers who generally grow mono-crops). While Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue himself made sure that some of the largest Georgia corporate farmers benefited from an earlier version of the Farm Bill.

Also ironic is the fact that Michigan farmers have received over $5 billion in subsidies over the past 20 years, according to the Environmental Working Group data base. Apple growers, like Robinettes, have been the beneficiaries of over $27 million is federal subsidies over the past two decades.

One question that was posed to Perdue, while he was in Grand Rapids Township, had to do with the shortage of migrant farm workers, which those in the agribusiness sector rely on. There is no response from Perdue in the MLive article, to the question about migrant labor, but based on his track record as Governor of Georgia, we could draw some conclusions.

In 2006, Perdue said:

“It is simply unacceptable for people to sneak into this country illegally on Thursday, obtain a government-issued ID on Friday, head for the welfare office on Monday and cast a vote on Tuesday.”

Perdue signed into law several measures that would crackdown on undocumented immigrants, while he was Governor of Georgia. 

The Uses and Abuses of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message Part III: Dodge Ram Superbowl Ad

February 5, 2018

It has been almost 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and so far we have written about 2 ways in which organizations have misused the message of Dr. King.

On January 8, we wrote about how the Grand Rapids Urban League misrepresented the message of Dr. King by hosting their annual Corporate Breakfast on the Civil Rights leader’s birthday. 

On January 25, we wrote a second piece that looked at how the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute, used Dr. King’s message to justify their own ideological agenda

In today’s post, we investigate the absurdity of the Chrysler Corporation’s use of an excerpt of a Dr. King speech to sell their trucks.

Here is the TV ad that ran during this year’s Superbowl.

The spot begins by providing viewers with the date of the speech that Dr. King gave, which was February 4, 1968. The Chrysler TV ad uses audio from that 1968 speech from Dr. King and the excerpt they use centers around the notion that we should not do good in order to be recognized, rather, we all should do could in the capacity of being a servant to others.

There are several images that accompany the words of Dr. King, including a firefighter, a teacher and a group of US soldiers. The images of soldiers in the TV ad are particularly offensive, not just because Dr. King was an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam, but a tireless proponent of non-violence. Using the images of soldiers in an ad using Dr. King’s words about being a servant, is a fraudulent use of the message of the slain Civil Rights leader.

The speech that the Chrysler ad lifts a few of Dr. King’s words, is actually taken from a sermon entitled, The Drum Major Instinct.

King encouraged his congregation to seek greatness, but to do so through service and love. King concluded the sermon by imagining his own funeral, downplaying his famous achievements and emphasizing his heart to do right. Dr. King knew that his days were numbered and that he was being targeted by repressive forces.

In this sermon, Dr. King also talks about racism and the war in Vietnam. In fact, Dr. King makes a scathing remark about the US involvement in Vietnam, saying:

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

However, the bulk of the sermon is devoted to the theme of being a servant and not wanting people to see the “good work” we are doing.

The irony of what Dr. King has to say in this sermon, when considering that the Chrysler Corporation was using Dr. King’s comments to sell trucks, is reflected in the following observation from the pulpit, when King is talking about people wanting to be recognized:

Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. That’s the way the advertisers do it.

There is even more irony in Dr. Kings words, just a few sentences later when he says:

But very seriously, it goes through life; the drum major instinct is real. And you know what else it causes to happen? It often causes us to live above our means. It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. But it feeds a repressed ego.

So, not only does the Dodge Ram ad misuse the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the sermon in which these words are taken from, actually calls out the seductive nature of advertising to buy cars from the very company which is fraudulently appropriating the message of slain Civil Rights leader.

Synder Front Group runs another Super Bowl Ad extolling the economic comeback of Michigan

February 5, 2018

This is the third time that Governor Rick Snyder and the 501c4 group, Making Government Accountable, has run an ad during the Super Bowl during the 8 years he has been in office. 

The ad, like all political ads, engages in populous and vague rhetoric, like, “Our government is now fiscally responsible” and “Everywhere, a renewed sense of confidence and pride.” 

The video also makes the claim that over 500,000 new jobs have been created in Michigan, but never qualifies what kind of jobs, the wages those jobs pay and whether they are full-time or part time. This is the nature of political ads.

The ad also makes the claim, “Detroit has become the most remarkable comeback city in the country.” Again, no need to substantiate such claims. If you say it, it must be true.

The images the ad uses about Detroit are those of downtown, with high rise buildings and sports arenas (which were subsidized by taxpayers). What the ad doesn’t show is the growing gap between the wealthy and those in poverty, the gentrification of Detroit or the fact that the city continues to shut off water to thousands of people who are struggling to survive. 

The ad doesn’t really talk about the rest of the state, but we know that the ad ran in the Detroit, Flint, Traverse City and Grand Rapids TV markets. According to the Detroit News, the ad ran on WOOD TV8, just prior to the Super Bowl game, at the cost of $12,000. 

We found out about the ad from a Facebook post on the West Michigan Policy Forum page. The West Michigan Policy Forum agrees with the ads message, as the members of the WMPF are amongst the primary beneficiaries of the “economic comeback” of Michigan. What the WMPF members mean by “economic comeback” is more profits for their companies, more government program cuts, taking away public sector union pensions, making Michigan a Right to Work state and eliminating the Michigan Business Tax.

No surprise then that several members of the leadership team at the West Michigan Policy Forum, John Kennedy, Michael Jandernoa, Doug DeVos, Meijer Family, Steve Van Andel, J. C. Huizenga, Matthew Haworth and the companies they represent, have been substantial contributors to Gov. Snyder since he was first elected. 

West Michigan Elite amongst the largest contributors to the 2018 Election in the State

February 2, 2018

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is already making it clear that the 2018 Elections in Michigan will be one of the most expensive in state history

In the 2018 Election we will see contributions from numerous sectors, including Political Action Committees (PACs), Caucus Committees, Super PACs, outside funding and an increase in individual candidate contributions.

One area, Caucus Committees, not only demonstrates the outrageous amounts of money that have already been raised in Michigan, the data also shows that West Michigan elites are amongst the top contributors to purchasing the 2018 elections.

According to the data collected by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the top two contributors to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee are listed as: 

  1. DeVos Family, Windquest Group and RDV Corp, $240,000
  2. Kennedy family, Autocam, $60,000

This amount of money is just what was raised in 2017 and we can expect even higher numbers for 2018.

In the House Republican Campaign Committee, the top three contributors are from West Michigan:

  1. DeVos Family, Windquest Group and RDV Corp, $240,000
  2. Nancy and John Kennedy, Autocam, $80,000
  3. Secchia family, Sibsco, $80,000

The Republicans have raised significantly larger amounts than the Democrats to date for the 2018 Election and that typically translates in to the GOP continuing to dominate state politics. You can see from the chart below, that the Michigan Republicans have raised in the House and Senate Caucus Committees more than double what the Democrats have raised.

We don’t have to have a City Manager form of government in Grand Rapids, we didn’t before

February 1, 2018

On Tuesday, we posted an article that provided an alternative view of the 8 years that Greg Sundstrom has served as City Manager of Grand Rapids. At the end of that article, we wrote:

we are not asking the question of why we even need a City Manager. The City Manager position in Grand Rapids is a non-elected position, yet this person has more power than anyone else in the City. If the City really wanted community engagement, they would really look at other forms of governance, where all residents had a say, where neighborhoods had more autonomy and where the city budget was determined by the public and not the City Managers office.

One thing that we did not mention in the Tuesday article, is that Grand Rapids used to have a different form of government. In the early part of the 20th century, Grand Rapids did not have a City Manager, instead the city was led by a strong Mayor, with a 12 ward system.

What this 12 ward system provided, was greater representation from both the working class residents of Grand Rapids and more ethnic diversity, at least diversity in terms of the various Euro-Americans that lived in the City – German, Polish, Dutch, Italian and Lithuanian.

This 12 ward system changed in 1916, when a new City Charter was proposed to reduced the 12 ward system with a 3 ward system and a strong Mayor form of government to a City Manager form of government.

This charter change was an effort put forth by the business community as a direct response to the 1911 furniture workers strike. The furniture workers strike demonstrated to the business community that working people had too much say in local electoral politics.

In August of 1916, voters went to the polls to determine the future political structure of Grand Rapids. The new Charter won by a small margin of 7,693 votes in favor to 6,012 votes in opposition. According to Jeffrey Kleiman’s book, Strike: How the Furniture Workers Strike of 1911 Changed Grand Rapids, the wards that voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Charter change were made up of the city’s elite.

The Second, Third and Tenth wards provided enthusiastic support for the proposed changes. Here lived the industrialists, lawyers, and bankers who formed the leadership of the Furniture Manufacturers Association, and the Association of Commerce. These men shared social and business connections through Kent Country Club and the Peninsular Club, and many were members of Fountain Street Baptist Church.

During another period of turmoil in Grand Rapids, there were attempts to change the City Charter back to a larger ward system and eliminate the City Manager for of government. In the later 1960s, just after the July 1967 race riot in Grand Rapids, there were both internal and external efforts to change the form of government.

In October, 1967, just a little over two months after the riot, there was a call for an investigation by Mayor Sonneveldt to look into the possibility of eliminating the City Manager form of government.

The question of shifting to a new form of government, by eliminating the City Manager position, was again debated in the Grand Rapids Press in November of 1967 and again in 1969, with the research commission that Sonneveldt requested 2 years earlier, but this time they were calling for a return to a 12 ward system and limiting the powers of the City Manager.

There have been other times in Grand Rapids history where efforts were put forth to restructure the number of wards the city would have or to eliminate the City Manager form of government.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to consider such a change right now, especially considering how much power the City Manager has in a non-elected position. And, like in 1967, Grand Rapids is again faced with serious racial and economic disparities. A new form of governance, especially one that truly gave all residents a say what form of government or governance they want. We can certainly learn from the past about what to do in the present that might effect our collective futures.

To view the GR Press articles on the various local governance proposals between 1967 – 1970, click here